Arizona Republican operative Steve May has found a new weapon in his fight against Democrats this fall: homeless people. In a colorfully-written election story, The New York Times spotlights May's efforts to recruit a ragtag group of "drifters" and "street people" to run on the Green Party ballot. According to the Times, May "freely admits that their candidacies may siphon some support from the Democrats":

"Did I recruit candidates? Yes," said Mr. May, who is himself a candidate for the State Legislature, on the Republican ticket. "Are they fake candidates? No way."

To make his point, Mr. May went by Starbucks, the gathering spot of the Mill Rats, as the frequenters of Mill Avenue are known.

"Are you fake, Benjamin?" he yelled out to Mr. Pearcy, who cried out "No," with an expletive attached.

"Are you fake, Thomas?" Mr. May shouted in the direction of Thomas Meadows, 27, a tarot card reader with less than a dollar to his name who is running for state treasurer. He similarly disagreed...

Gathered around was a motley crew of people who were down on their luck, including a one-armed pregnant woman named Roxie whom Mr. May befriended sometime back and who introduced him to the rest.

One-armed pregnant women aside, Arizona Democrats are not pleased with this development. They've filed a formal complaint with the state and warned voters to avoid supporting the Green Party outsiders. Unsurprisingly, the Times article has capture the interest of the blogosphere.

  • The Dems' Response Could Have Been Worded Better, points out Nitasha Tiku at New York magazine. Since we're talking about homeless people here, it seems like Democrat Jackie Thrasher could have phrased his response differently: "What's happening here just doesn't wash," he said. "It doesn't pass the smell test."

  • The Sword Cuts Both Ways, writes Booman at Booman Tribune: "This is a side effect of making ballot access too easy. We normally complain about access being too hard (either too costly, or requiring a ridiculous number of signatures), but if you make it too easy, the other side can just put up a slate of homeless people to drain away some potentially decisive votes."
  • Smart Money's on the Tarot Card Reader—if this were a movie, writes Stephen Dubner at The New York Times: "In the movie version, of course, the Green Party candidate -- a drifter who sometimes works as a tarot card reader -- would somehow win the local election, quickly jump onto the national political stage and become president, teaching us all a lesson in humility and leadership." He calls this effort "unbranding," connecting it to the corporate tactic of putting a rival's product in the hands of an "undesirable endorser." Such as, say, Snooki.
  • Here's the Back Story to Why This Strategy Works, writes Richard Winger's Ballot Access News blog:

The reason it is so easy for write-in candidates to be nominated in the primaries of newly-qualifying parties in Arizona is because the Socialist Workers Party won a lawsuit in 1980. The SWP had complained about the number of signatures needed to place a member of the party on the SWP's primary ballot. The U.S. District Court Judge upheld the number of signatures needed for a candidate to get on the primary ballot... but struck down the companion law that required a minimum number of write-ins for anyone to win the primary of a newly-qualifying party. ...

If the Green Party had known that these candidates would be filing declarations of candidacy, the party could have recruited bona fide Greens to also file write-in declarations of candidacy, and the bona fide Greens certainly would have received more write-ins than the candidates recruited by the Republicans.